Colors of Spain and Portugal Tour
DAY 1: Arrival day in Madrid
DAY 2: Madrid walking tour including Royal Palace
DAY 3: Cordoba by high-speed train, guided visit of the Mezquita
DAY 4: City of Granada
DAY 5: Moorish palace, Alhambra
DAY 6: Wine and olive oil experiences
DAY 7: Enjoy the beauty of Ronda
DAY 8: The Roman site Italica
DAY 9: Tour of Sevilla, Flamenco show
DAY 10: Market tour and Paella cooking class
DAY 11: Departure Day and for those traveling on with me to Portugal (see "4-day extension to Portugal" for details below)
**Small Group Tour, one exclusive 2024 date**
- Be immersed in Moorish-style opulence at the UNESCO world heritage site, the Alhambra
- Explore the heart of Andalusia, where palaces, cathedrals and "pueblos blancos" have a story to tell
- Savor tasty regional cuisine & wine in authentic local restaurants
- Taste olive oil pressed at a traditional mill
- Experience the Triana food market tour & paella cooking class in Seville
- Enjoy an intimate Flamenco Show
- Explore the Jewish Quarter and incredible Mezquita in Cordoba
- Relax in the care of your dedicated local tour leader
PRICING: $4,657 per person (based on double occupancy). Not including airfare.
Portugal extension $1,757 pp (based on double occupancy)
$500 Deposit, per person, is required to secure your space on this tour
Madrid, Granada, Ronda, Cordoba, Sevilla and 4 day extension to Portugal
Arrival Airport: Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD)
Departure Airport for Spain: Sevilla airport (SVQ)
Departure Airport for Portugal: Lisbon International airport (LIS)
As your local host for the duration of your trip, I would like to take you straight to the soul of Spain by guiding you, not only to famous sites, but also to my favorite places off the beaten path where you can enjoy the rhythm of daily life. Whether you love culture, cuisine, family fun or a bit of everything, this hand-crafted tour offers you an unforgettable taste of Spain.
Suggested time to travel: April/May and Sept/Oct
It is very hot in Spain during the summer.
Day to day itinerary
Itinerary specifics subject to change
DAY 1: ARRIVAL DAY IN MADRID
I will be waiting for you with our driver at baggage claim for our transfer to your hotel in the city.
Madrid stands at the very center of Spain –geographically, culturally, and politically. Madrid not only offers the culture and good times of a sophisticated, modern city but it also retains the charm and elegance of its early years. The power and glory of Madrid is reflected in its parks, plazas, boulevards and in the pride and panache of today’s Madrilenos.
Among the splendid attractions of Madrid are the Prado Museum, home to masterworks of Goya, Velazquez and El Greco; the 19th century Villahermosa Palace now the Thyssen-Bornemizsa Museum; the Reina Sofia Art Centre showcasing more than 300 modern works by Dali, Miro and Picasso among others; the 18th century Royal Palace on the lovely Plaza de Oriente; the bustling Puerta del Sol with its many shops, restaurants and tapas bars; Rastro Market on Sundays one of the oldest outdoor markets in Europe; and Retiro Park for strolling while admiring local artists and buskers.
This evening, enjoy an included tapas tour: You’ll take part in a guided small group tapas tour with all food and drinks included. It’s a great way to experience Madrid’s most interesting and authentic bars and restaurants without the research or guesswork. Your guide will recommend the wines and other drinks to try and will order specialty tapas at each bar or tavern. Your guide will talk about the history of tapas, the types of tapas served in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain and will also give you a history of the neighborhood you are visiting as well.
DAY 2: MADRID
After breakfast, you’ll be met at your hotel by your expert local Madrid guide who will take you on a private tour of the historic city center. You’ll enjoy visiting such places such as the Plaza del Sol, Plaza Santa, Plaza Mayor as well as the Mercado San Miguel, one of Madrid’s famous food markets.
You will continue with your guide to Plaza de la Villa and the Plaza del Oriente. Visit the Royal Palace that stands on the site of an old alcazar fortress and a former Moorish castle. With 3,418 rooms rivalling Versailles, there’s something to represent every style (and every monarch) since its construction (note: being a government building, the Royal Palace is often closed for ceremonies and official events that can come up at the last minute, so this visit is subject to change)
This afternoon in your time of leisure make your own discoveries, visit other wonderful sites in Madrid like the Prado Museum. The museum is a wonderful space dating back to 1785 that now houses art from the 12th to the 19th century including large permanent collections by Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, Bosch, Titian, Van Dyck and Rembrandt.
DAY 3: CORDOBA - travel by high speed train
After breakfast, transfer to the train station for your high-speed train to Cordoba.
Cordoba (population 300,000), one of Andalusia's eight provincial capitals, stands on the banks of the River Guadalquivir northeast of Seville. Cordoba is an unhurried city, known for its abundant courtyards (or patios as they are called locally), flowers dangling from balconies and narrow winding streets. The city was founded around 169 B.C. by the Roman praetor Claudius Marcelus and was the birthplace of Seneca. The city boomed under the Arabs and, on the arrival of the Caliphate, became the most civilized and sophisticated city in 10th-century Europe. During this century, Cordoba had nearly 1,000 mosques, 600 public baths and street lighting (700 years before either London or Paris). Cordoba´s sophistication attracted numerous intellectuals, scholars, poets, doctors, and philosophers. Later, the city was conquered by the Christians and this equally important legacy can still be seen today.
After lunch, meet your expert local Cordoba guide at your hotel and spend the morning exploring the city that was the great Moorish capital of Al Andalus. A walk around the old Jewish quarter gives the sensation that little has changed since the 10th century. You have pre-booked tickets to visit the Mosque-Cathedral or Mezquita which is without doubt one of the most famous constructions in all of Andalusia and is one of the largest mosques in the Islamic world. The original Mosque was built between 786 and 788 by Abd ar-Rahman, but over the centuries, many additions and extensions have been made. Following the Christian conquest, it was consecrated as a Cathedral in 1236.
Visit the Synagogue built in 1314, a beautiful Mudejar building nearly perfectly preserved and the only synagogue in Spain from that time not to have been turned into a Christian building. See Almodovar gate or ‘Gate of the Jews’ as it is known locally and the monument to the great Jewish doctor and philosopher, Maimonides. Also see beautiful courtyard patios for which Cordoba is so famous.
After the tour and before dinner, I recommend a walk to the Roman bridge across the Guadalquivir River.
DAY 4: GRANADA
Enjoy a leisurely morning visiting the patios of Cordoba or Viana Palace before we continue East today to the unforgettable city of Granada, which was the last strong hold of the Moorish empire in southern Spain until it finally fell to the Catholic kings in 1492. Granada (Gáranata) was once the grandest city in Spain! Set at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, it is the most visited of all Andalusian cities.
In the evening, after you checked in to your boutique hotel located in the heart of the city, join your local host, for a short orientation walk around the ancient Albaicin neighborhood, the old Moorish quarter that has hardly changed since the 15th century, to end up at the famous viewpoints overlooking the incredible Alhambra, Plaza San Nicolas.
Relax during dinner at a "Carmen" (a traditional Granada house with a large garden of vines and fruit trees) with stunning views of the Alhambra.
DAY 5: MOORISH PALACE, ALHAMBRA
Today, following breakfast, meet your expert guide for a private guided visit of the Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens, with pre-booked tickets included.
This complex of palaces built around courtyards of flowering trees, pools and fountains is often hailed as the most exciting, sensual, and romantic of all European monuments. It’s beauty shows the brilliance and spirit of the Moorish culture in Andalusia at a time when the rest of Europe was only just beginning to emerge from the Dark Ages. You will also tour the Generalife - the summer palace and gardens of the Sultans. It is one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens. It is one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens. Prepare to be wowed by the water features and courtyards. You’ll also visit the cathedral and the Royal Chapel where your guide will give you an overview of the history of the cathedral and point out the lead coffins of the Catholic Monarchs, Fernando and Isabella, who re-conquered and unified Spain in 1492.
Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
DAY 6: WHITE VILLAGES OF ANDALUCIA
Your private driver and guide will meet you at your hotel after breakfast and transfer you safely, in a little over 2 hours, to your centrally located hotel in Ronda. Ronda is one of the most spectacularly located towns in Andalusia, and sits on a massive rocky outcropping. It is also one of the gateways to the Pueblos Blancos (White Villages). The Puente Nuevo or New Bridge, an impressive 18th century construction over the steep El Tajo Gorge (nearly 100 m deep) joins old Ronda with new Ronda.
This fairytale setting dating back to Roman times, has attracted the likes of Ernest Hemingway, who based “For Whom the Bell Tolls” on this city, as well as Orson Wells, whose ashes are buried on a bull farm just outside of town. The interior of Andalucía is responsible for many of the memorable images we have of Spain.
Ronda is considered the spiritual home of bullfighting, having one of the country’s oldest bullrings. Other highlights include the old town with its lovely old palaces, of which the Mondragon Palace (now a museum) stands out.
Before reaching Ronda, we have a couple of special stops. The first is at an olive oil mill for a tour and tasting. Spain is the largest producer of Olive Oil in the world and 80% of Spanish total production is in Andalusia. The production of olive oil in Spain dates back almost 6,000 years ago with the settlement of Phoenician and Greeks. Ever since then, olive oil has continued to be an integral base of most Spanish cuisine. Similarly, Spanish wine has been elevated to the status of one of the best wines in the world for its wide variety of grapes and exquisite taste.
The second is at a local winery. Wine has been made in Ronda and the Serrania since Phoenician and Grecian times, and in fact may have been made by iron age peoples before them. We can only speculate at the quality of wines produced in those olden times, though it is certain that wines were produced commercially during the Roman era, notably at Acinipo and Arriate, and most likely stored in warehouses at Setenil for eventual transport to Rome and the other great cities of the Roman Empire.
After you have checked in to your hotel, relax at hour hotel with a dinner at your leisure.
DAY 7: RONDA
Today, after breakfast, you'll meet your expert local Ronda guide. Discover firsthand the beauty of Ronda on this private walking tour. Explore the city's most iconic monuments and sights like the Arab baths, Church of Santa Maria la Mayor, Casa Don Bosco, Old Town Hall, and one of Spain's oldest bullfighting rings.
This afternoon is at your leisure to relax and enjoy Ronda. Dinner is also at your leisure.
DAY 8: SEVILLA & ITALICA
Today, we’ll take the road less traveled as your private driver and guide meet you at the hotel after breakfast and transfer you safely to Seville and your centrally located boutique hotel, with a few wonderful stops along the way. The beauty of the Sierra de Grazalema region is unmatched in Spain. Its combination of dramatic mountain scenery and splendid whitewashed villages makes you half expect to see medieval Berber farmers and Christian knights. Andalucía contains scores more white towns, all similar in their outward appearance, but each, on closer inspection, hiding distinctly different cultures and personalities.
Before arrving at our hotel in Sevilla, we will stop and visit the site known as Italica.
The Roman ruins of Italica, with remarkable mosaics and an impressive amphitheatre, are located 9 kilometres to the north of the city of Seville, just outside the village of Santiponce. Nearby you can also see a well preserved Roman theatre. Italica was the birthplace of three Roman emperors - Trajan, Hadrian, and possibly Theodosius. One of the earliest Roman settlements in Spain, it was founded in 206 BC by Publius Cornelius Scipius to house legionaries after the battle of Ilipa, which saw the Carthaginians (from North Africa) were defeated. The town rose to high social and military status in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, when Trajan and his nephew Hadrian were in power. Hadrian named the town, which had a population of 8,000, Colonia Aelia Augusta Italica. The area was a major producer of grain and olive oil, and some families with private farms became very wealthy exporting to Rome.
From the 3rd century AD the town lost its affluence, possibly due to a problem with its port on the river Guadalquivir. Throughout the Middle Ages and until the last century, the ruins were used as a source of building materials - for the road from Merida to Sevilla in the 19th century, and for grand houses in Seville - look out for marble columns around the city. Fortunately the 25,000-seater amphitheatre, which was one of the largest in the Roman Empire, has partly survived (two storeys out of three). The central pit was used for animal cages (bears and wild boar) during gladiatorial combats. In 2016 it was used as a filming location for Game of Thrones.
DAY 9: SEVILLA WALKING TOUR
Sevilla, the capital of Andalusia situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River is the most cosmopolitan of its neighbors, a storied city that has been Andalucía’s seat of power and glory for nearly 1000 years.
After breakfast, your expert local Seville guide will meet you at your hotel to show you Seville’s Barrio Santa Cruz (the old Jewish quarter). You’ll see the cathedral that houses the remains of Christopher Columbus. Standing on the site of a great mosque, the structure features mudejar, gothic, renaissance, baroque, and neo-classical styles, as well as the old minaret of the Arab mosque. Make sure to climb the ramps to the Giralda Tower that offers outstanding views over the city. Take a moment to enjoy the sublime Patio de Los Naranjos (Courtyard of the Orange Trees) beside the cathedral.
You'll also visit the Alcazar, the site of the marriage between Carlos V and Isabel of Portugal in 1526. Its two beautiful outdoor courtyards are spectacular, and the tapestries and furniture are superb.
Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure for personal exploration or perhaps even a siesta!
Known as Hispalis in Roman times, Seville was taken by the Moors in 712 and remained a Muslim capital until the 13thcentury. Between 1503 and 1718 Seville had a monopoly as the only trading port between Spain and the Americas, becoming extravagantly wealthy and spawning a Golden Age of arts and literature. Seville is one of Europe’s sunniest cities – hence the orange trees growing everywhere. The combination of Moorish, Mudejar, Renaissance and Baroque architecture through the city center’s compact maze of narrow streets really is a sensory overload by day or by night. The entire city comes to a standstill for the Feria and Easter week as the city celebrates tradition and community. For the rest of the year, it’s a perfect place to unwind, explore and of course, eat! You’ll find the same influences you see in the architecture has also trickled through to the food. Don’t be surprised to see film crews around. The Games of Thrones series has been filmed here recently and the city is attracting a lot of attention from a new fan base.
Dinner is at your leisure, but you are invited to join me for tapas! Tonight you are in for a special treat as we'll take in a traditional Flamenco Show. Flamenco is an art form that was born, and thrives, here in Spain. Spanish flamenco is the best because Spaniards start dancing when they can barely walk, and they dance everyday. The stomping of the feet, the twirling of the body, and the drama of the music are simply part of their culture.
DAY 10: PAELLA COOKING CLASS
More and more people are learning that Spain is a top culinary destination —not just the home of the famous paella, Spanish omelette and gazpacho. Spain now boasts some of the world’s best and most renowned chefs and restaurants, along with a great variety of styles.
Today, you'll enjoy a fun Cooking Class and discover the delights of Spanish & Andalusian cuisine.
This small group activity includes a visit to the Triana Food Market, where you will learn about locally grown products and participate in the selection of some ingredients that will be used later in the class. You will also meet some of the vendors, who have been there for generations. During the class, guests have the chance to get involved in the preparation of a 4 course menu, directed by an English speaking professionally trained chef. Classes are designed for both novice and experienced cooks who will be able to learn and develop new techniques and skills.
After the class, dine on what has been cooked, accompanied by wine. The activity takes roughly 4 hours (including eating time).
Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure for personal exploration. There is so much to see in Seville, and your local host can certainly help you with what you could visit on your own! We do recommend a visit to Plaza España, set amidst the wonderful gardens of Maria Luisa Park. Built in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exhibition (World’s Fair) it is an impressive example of Renaissance Revival style architecture.
Enjoy dinner at your leisure.
DAY 11: DEPARTURE DAY
Those flying back home, will either fly out of Sevilla to catch their flight home out of Madrid, and those who chose to continue their travels with me will be traveling to Portugal today.
- Private transportation while on tour (air conditioned vans or luxury mini buses)
- Transfers from the airport in Madrid
- Train tickets between Madrid and Cordoba
- Unwind for 10 nights in hand-picked, heart of the cities, accommodations:
- 2 nights in Madrid
- 1 night in Cordoba
- 2 nights in Granada
- 2 night in Ronda
- 3 nights in Sevilla
- Meals included: daily breakfast, 3 dinners - Tapas in Madrid, Granada, Sevilla
- Private walking tours with local expert English speaking tour guides in Madrid, Granada, Ronda, Cordoba, Sevilla
- Skip the lines with prepaid entrance fees to:
- Royal Palace in Madrid
- Mezquita in Cordoba
- Cathedral and Alcazar in Seville
- Alhambra in Granada with Generalife
- Plaza de Toros in Ronda
- Italica Seville
- Free time for you to choose your own optional experiences
- Gratuities for drivers and restaurant staff at included meals (additional gratuities can be given at the sole discretion of each individual traveler).
- Country specific information packet before departure
- Hand-picked experiences:
- enjoy a special tour and tasting of local olive oil
- family-owned winery tour and tasting
- watch a soul stirring-Flamenco show
- peruse a local market followed by a private cooking lesson where you learn to make salmorejo and paella
- discover the art of eating tapas
- Discover Spain's cuisine: Our hand-crafted itinerary includes wonderful experiences with local cuisine as you enjoy a variety of included dinners (as indicated on the itinerary) at authentic Spanish restaurants.
- Taxes & Fees: Local VAT taxes and government fees, City Tax, gas, highway tolls, city access licenses and permits, parking fees.
NOTE: In the grand European traditions, I believe that dinner is a celebration of good food and wine, a celebration of culture and a celebration of family and friendship. Hosting this celebration is one of the joys of being a tour manager. I guide you to your favorite dish … or help you choose something you’ve never tried before. I choose the perfect wines and throw in some local delicacies to broaden your palate and surprise you a bit. When we are at a cooking lesson or a wine tasting, rest assured that you'll go home with new knowledge that will increase your appetite for more. On every tour, I have included dinners as a group as well as nights on your own. Of course, you are always invited to join me at my favorite places or as I explore new and interesting restaurant finds. I also have a lot of recommendations and would be happy to make reservations for you.
Audrey's Gold Standard
I've personally tried, tasted and tested every single experience, ensuring quality and authenticity. If it doesn’t meet my personal stamp of approval, it won’t be on your tour!
What is not included
- Passport fees, visa fees, immunization costs, entry clearing fees (when applicable)
- Optional enhancements like room upgrades
- Additional sightseeing, activities and experiences outside of your itinerary
- Early check-in or late check-out from hotels
- Personal charges such as laundry, phone calls, SIM cards or room service
- Lunches, dinners and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), unless specified in the itinerary
- Travel insurance (strongly recommended)
- Your international and domestic airfare
- Porterage: Please note that you'll need to carry your own luggage up and down stairs at hotels and across cobblestone
- See Terms and Conditions
4-DAY Extension to Portugal
Itinerary specifics subject to change
The Golden Age of Sea Travel can be felt everywhere in Portugal. The Portuguese were shipbuilders. By the 16th century they had the biggest and most powerful high-seas fleet in Europe. Vasco da Gama trail-blazed the way to India. Ferdinand Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the earth. These maritime adventurers have inspired us to create our own Age of Discovery and travel to Portugal over and over.
DAY 11: September 27, EVORA
Today we cross the border into Portugal on our way to Lisbon. On the way we stop in (Reguengoz de Monsaraz) at a charming and local winery where you will be treated to a tour of the grounds followed by a wine tasting and a petiscos lunch to savor the flavors of the region.
Enjoy one night in the town of Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a former Roman city with ruins and a Corinthian columned Roman Temple still standing, the Temple of Diana.
Walk around in this 2000-year-old town including a visit to the Chapel of the Bones. Évora is a well-preserved walled city that will truly delight. One of Portugal’s most beautifully preserved medieval towns, Évora is an enchanting place to delve into the past. Inside the 14th-century walls, Évora’s narrow, winding lanes lead to striking architectural works: an elaborate medieval cathedral and cloisters; the cinematic columns of the Templo Romano (near the intriguing Roman baths); and a picturesque town square, once the site of some rather gruesome episodes courtesy of the Inquisition. Aside from its historic and aesthetic virtues, Évora is also a lively university town.
DAY 12: September 28, LISBON
After breakfast, travel to Lisbon. Often overlooked for its popular European cousins, Lisbon specializes in lulling tourists into its laid-back charm. Perched atop seven hills, overlooking the Tagus River, its alleyways wind between colorful, centuries-old buildings. Fanciful St. George's Castle peeks out to the skyline, lending an Old World-mystery to the burgeoning cosmopolitan city. And despite the modern sleek buildings that are slowly rising throughout the city, village life holds strong. But there's more to Lisbon than lazing about in coffee shops nibbling pastéis de nata (custard tarts) all day, from exploring the various neighborhoods to taking in the view from the Santa Justa elevator, Lisbon's coastal capital is rich with opportunity.
The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755: The earthquake hit on All Saint’s Day, when most of the population was in church, many died as the roofs collapsed. The survivors had to contend with a tsunami that scoured the downtown, followed by five days of fire. It’s estimated that upward of 100,000 people died, in one of history’s deadliest earthquakes. Much of the city is still defined by the rebuilding that followed.
“Lisbon, more than anywhere in Portugal, has an international feel. You’ll find restaurants serving food from former colonies like Mozambique, Brazil and Angola right next to those serving traditional Portuguese dishes”.
This evening enjoy an included Fado show: Fado music is a form of Portuguese singing that is often associated with pubs, cafés, and restaurants. This music genre officially originated in Portugal around the 1820s, though it is thought to have much earlier origins. Fado is known for how expressive and profoundly melancholic it is. In fado music, the musician will sing about the hard realities of daily life, balancing both resignation and hopefulness that a resolution to its torments can still occur. It can be described by using the Portuguese word “saudade,” which means “longing” and stands for a feeling of loss. This loss is generally permanent and of long-term consequence. Fado music often has one or two 12 string guitars, one or two violas, and sometimes a small 8 string bass.
DAY 13: September 29, TOUR OF LISBON
You’ll be met at your hotel by your expert local guide for a fun and educational half day private tour in Lisbon, combined with a gastronomic tour. This is a walking tour in the historical center of Lisbon that includes several specially chosen stops in both traditional and modern shops and cafes with delicious portuguese products. Immerse yourself in the portuguese culture and taste some amazing food and wine, while exploring in the company of your friendly guide the narrow streets of the city and unveiling the secrets of beautiful Lisbon. You'll finish-up in a charming locale in the Bairro Alto for a sitdown, smorgasboard style lunch with wine.
This afternoon, visit Jeronimos Monastery, the Tower of Belem and Monument to the Discoveries. And of course, no trip to Lisbon is complete without tasting the famous Pasteis de Belem pastry.
DAY 14: September 30, COASTAL DAY WITH SINTRA AND CABO DA ROCA
After breakfast, depart for SINTRA, UNESCO World Heritage–listed center, where you will discover mountaintop medieval fortifications, vibrant fairytale castles, lush forests, and eccentric labyrinthine gardens, all in one location! It was for six centuries the favorite residence of the rulers and remains resort of large Lisbon families who have charming "quintas" or elegant palaces there. Visit the Palácio da Pena. Do not forget to taste Sintra’s delicious queijada (tartlet), the specialty of the city. We're then on to Quinta da Regaleira. This palace could have been the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s the Beauty and the Beast. Through clever architecture, tapping into a multitude of mystical beliefs throughout time and many different cultures, this estate conjures up an atmosphere of enchantment.
Free time for lunch.
Departure to the steep cliffs of CABO DA ROCA, the westernmost point of the European continent. Finally, departure to the "Sun Coast" and its beaches: the cosmopolitan ESTORIL, a sandy beach well known for the quality of its distractions, and CASCAIS, a traditional fishing port, but also a very lively resort.
DAY 15: October 1, DEPARTURE DAY
Be a part of a cultural melting pot of Moorish, Jewish, and Christian history, from extraordinary architecture to endless culinary delights.
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